What can Arizona do to keep the best and brightest high-school students in state after they graduate so the economy can benefit from their leadership and talent?
One method that’s kept 20 of Arizona’s highest-achieving students in state each year is the The Flinn Scholars Program, which is supported by The Flinn Foundation and Arizona’s three public state universities. In the past 30 years, the program has provided a jump start to 570 Arizona’s young leaders’ college education.
Flinn Scholars receive a college scholarship package valued at over $115,000 that covers tuition at Arizona State University, University of Arizona or Northern Arizona University, funding for room and board, support for at least two study-abroad experiences and an off-campus internship, university faculty mentorship and other benefits.
“The students we select to be Flinn Scholars have big dreams about how they can make a difference in their community: they are problem solvers,” said Anne Lassen, Flinn Scholars program director.
For example, 2004 Flinn Scholar Dr. Adeel Yang, M.D., co-founded Picmonic, a Tempe-based educational software company that’s raised over $5 million in funding and grown from two to 30 full-time team members since its founding in 2011, Lassen said.
“If you’re planning on helping and bettering the Arizona community, having a Flinn Scholarship is really a great way to enhance opportunities and open doors,” said Dr. Jeremy Babendure, Arizona SciTech Festival executive director and a Flinn Scholar from the class of 1997.
Bailey Lockwood, a 2016 Flinn Scholar from Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix, said she expects the scholarship to “further my education more quickly, which will enable me to help people more quickly. My goal is to give back to Arizona, so every dime they put into me is going to be put back into this state.”
“It is no longer assumed that accomplished high-school seniors will leave Arizona for undergraduate studies,” Lassen said. “Today, those who pick honors at one of Arizona’s universities have profiles that compare quite favorably with peers at Harvard, MIT and Stanford.”
“The Flinn Scholarship not only relieves me of having to figure out how to pay for college, but also provides me with a multitude of opportunities and connections that I would not have gotten without this scholarship,” said Cameron Carver, a 2016 Flinn Scholar from Sabino High School in Tucson.
The program also carries clout in the workforce, said Babendure, an assistant research professor in ASU and U of A’s chemistry and biochemistry departments.
“There’s a brand associated with being a Flinn Scholar that you wouldn’t realize until after you’re in the workforce,” Babendure said.
“You don’t go out saying a Flinn Scholarship is something you have, but if it does come out, there’s some odd instant credibility that you get,” Babendure said. “It can help open a lot of doors.”
This year’s scholars
This year, 20 Arizona high school seniors have been named Flinn Scholars from the 761 students who submitted applications, said Brian Powell, communications manager for the Flinn Foundation, a Phoenix nonprofit founded in 1965 that supports the advancement of Arizona’s bioscience sector, arts and culture, and the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership.
“These newest Flinn Scholars once again have impressed the foundation with their intellect, talent and dedication to their schools and communities,” said Jack B. Jewett, Flinn Foundation president and CEO. “We proudly welcome this diverse group of student leaders from throughout the state who will receive exceptional educations and college experiences at Arizona’s three universities.”
|2016 Flinn Scholar||
|Martín Blair||Phoenix Union Bioscience High School||Phoenix||Phoenix Union|
|Nicole Bratsch||Blue Ridge High School||Pinetop-Lakeside||Blue Ridge Unified|
|Cameron Carver||Sabino High School||Tucson||Tucson Unified|
|Anagha Deshpande||Hamilton High School||Chandler||Chandler Unified|
|Kara Dunn||Horizon Honors High School||Phoenix||Horizon Community Learning Center|
|Enrique Favaro||Tempe Preparatory Academy||Tempe||Tempe Preparatory Academy|
|Colton Flowers||Sandra Day O’Connor High School||Phoenix||Deer Valley Unified|
|Maeve Kennedy||Westwood High School||Mesa||Mesa Public Schools|
|Martha Kiela||BASIS Tucson North||Tucson||BASIS Schools|
|Bailey Lockwood||Sunnyslope High School||Phoenix||Glendale Union|
|Toni Marcheva||Skyline High School||Mesa||Mesa Public Schools|
|Aidan McGirr||Anthem Preparatory Academy||Phoenix||Great Hearts Academies|
|Vaibhavi Mohan||BASIS Scottsdale||Scottsdale||BASIS Schools|
|Ivette Montes||Westwood High School||Mesa||Mesa Public Schools|
|Yisha Ng||Flagstaff High School||Flagstaff||Flagstaff Unified|
|Rohini Nott||BASIS Chandler||Chandler||BASIS Schools|
|Tina Peng||Chandler Preparatory Academy||Chandler||Great Hearts Academies|
|Andrew Roberts||Westwood High School||Mesa||Mesa Public Schools|
|Emmi Torres||Glendale High School||Glendale||Glendale Union|
|Maggie Zheng||University High School||Tucson||Tucson Unified|
The typical Flinn Scholar achieves at least a 3.5 grade-point average, ranks in the top-5 percent of their class, scores at least 1300 on the SAT or 29 on the ACT, and participates and demonstrates leadership in extracurricular activities, said Brian Powell, communications manager for The Flinn Foundation.
“The academic and extracurricular achievements of these young adults and their focus on service to make the world a better place are extraordinary. It’s no wonder that the most prestigious universities in the country recruited them intensely,” Lassen said. “They clearly benefited from dedicated teachers and from seeking engaging programs and rigorous curriculums.”
Many of these students declined offers from the nation’s most selective universities to accept the Flinn scholarship.
“What makes the Flinn Scholarship unique is the community that comes along with the financial support,” Lassen said. “Flinn Scholars don’t all have the same interests. Their academic and personal interests vary widely, but they share a passion for learning and creating, and that makes them great friends, fellow travelers and colleagues.”
“That supportive community also comes from our alumni who are emerging leaders in a wide range of fields, throughout Arizona, across the country and around the world,” Lassen said.
Fostering connections and serving the community
Even though they will be busy with classes and projects, Flinn Scholars should make it a priority to make connections with people outside their intended field, engage and support their communities and cultivate relationships with their fellow scholars and other people who want to make Arizona better, Babendure said.
“It’s really about leveraging these opportunities they’re going to get in college to make that happen,” Babendure said. “I didn’t think about how important those connections were when I was in college, especially with the other Flinn Scholars, and I really wish that I took more time to really cultivate those relationships.”
“Already through Flinn, I have been able to meet amazing students and professors in my areas of interest, a man who interned with the NASA, incredible civil leaders, and friends that I know will last a lifetime,” McGirr said.
Nicole Bratsch, a Flinn Scholar from Blue Ridge High School in Pinetop-Lakeside, said she looking forward to learning more about her fellow Flinn Scholars.
“I can’t wait to get to know all my fellow Scholars! They all seem like amazing, talented, passionate individuals, and I know they will be my lifelong friends,” Bratsch said. “I look forward to all the passionate debates and weird conversations we will enter into, as well as the memories we’ll make.”
Ivette Montes, a Flinn Scholar from Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix, said she’s looking forward to paying it forward to other young people.
“The Flinn scholarship helps me accomplish my goal of giving back to the Arizona community, which allowed me to become a first-generation college student by encouraging diversity in STEM through mentoring,” Montes said.
For McGirr, the financial freedom the Flinn scholarship brings means “I do not have to worry about working through college such that I have far more time to focus on giving back to the community and finding a research internship.”
What’s new for the program?
The newest opportunity for Flinn Scholars is the Professional Leadership Internship Program that began in 2015 and connects premier Arizona firms and organizations with Flinn Scholars’ exceptional talent, Lassen said.
“Flinn is, at its core, a supersonic kick-start into the world,” said Aidan McGirr, a Flinn Scholar from Anthem Prep.
“(The scholars) were full of energy, engaged in all that was happening, and not only accomplished the projects they were assigned but ended up teaching us a lot in the process, especially related to recruiting young and exceptional talent,” said Martha Brumfield, Critical Path Institute president and CEO on The Flinn Foundation website.
The internship program provides supplemental scholarship grant funding of up to $5,000 to participating Flinn Scholars who take on substantial projects that complement their academic studies during their junior year at Arizona companies and organizations and interact with key leaders at the host organizations.
McGirr said he’s looking forward to the mentoring and the intership program.
“Flinn also pairs each scholar up with their own personal mentor at their respective university to help them thrive and surpass their goals, and Flinn has an internship match program during one’s Junior year of college,” McGirr said. “Flinn is, at its core, a supersonic kick-start into the world.”
Last year, each internship supervisor said they’d hire their intern if they could, according to The Flinn Foundation website.
“Flinn Scholars are building the strong professional networks in Arizona that will enable more of them to establish careers in their home state, while making a significant impact with their work,” Lassen said. “Arizona’s universities are producing highly skilled graduates; we benefit when that talent is recruited to stay in Arizona.”